PATH: People Assisting the Homeless
Homelessness has been growing in Santa Barbara, where last year nearly 2,000 people were living without shelter, a situation that has been very visible as evidenced by the number of encampments encroaching along railroad paths, roadsides, and waterfronts throughout the county. The same story exists in virtually every corner of California in what increasingly seems an intractable problem. So, the concept of an organization having a mission to end homelessness in California might seem like a quixotic pursuit.
But PATH has both a purpose and a plan.
“Absolutely we can end homelessness,” said Katie Tell, the Chief External Affairs Officer for PATH – an acronym for People Assisting the Homeless – which operates 60 locations across five regions, from San Diego to the Bay Area, including a major center in Santa Barbara. “We’re doing it every day. We end homelessness for thousands of people every year, so we know exactly what it takes.”
That means everything from the most obvious solution – providing an affordable place to call home – to a wide variety of services geared toward making that happen and sustaining the support people need to stay housed.
“Affordable housing is the answer, but we also know that supportive services are critical,” Tell said. “Whether that’s financial assistance, healthcare, mental healthcare, job skills, we have a way to address it.”
Here in Santa Barbara, the most visible part of the organization’s approach is PATH Santa Barbara’s 100-bed interim housing site, which has been in operation since 2015. The facility is a far cry from the typical homeless shelter, where folks have to line up for entry at the end of a day, scramble for a bed, grab a warm meal, and a night’s sleep before being required to leave the next morning.
“What we operate is interim housing,” Tell explained. “People are there as much as they need to be, and know that they’ve got their bed, a storage space, showers, support services, three meals a day, all right there on site – a safe home for as long as they need it.”
Last year, 65 people transitioned from the Cacique Street site into permanent housing, taking advantage of PATH’s programs to find ways to increase their income, sign up for benefits that they need, and to eventually start to navigate the housing search process.
“People need specialized care in all sorts of ways,” Tell shared. “So we partner with a whole host of other nonprofits that are doing really good work from healthcare providers, domestic violence service providers, substance use specialists, and more. We make sure that our clients get whatever support they might need to help them on that path toward stability.”
But PATH’s efforts to manifest its mission don’t end at the shelter’s door. To address those who are living unsheltered on the streets, the organization has a full-time outreach worker meeting people where they are, Tell mentioned.
“They’re walking through neighborhoods, parks, and the beaches, connecting with folks living outdoors, providing food and clothing, with the ultimate goal of helping them sign up to receive services – and either come into interim housing or transition directly into a permanent housing unit. Some folks that do come into our center just need some short, time-limited financial assistance with the security deposit, and we can help with what we call rapid rehousing.”
“When someone contacts PATH, they are met with housing navigation staff members whose sole purpose is to help them from wherever they are, through navigating the housing search process, right up until lease signing,” Tell said, “and even beyond that. When they move into a new home, we provide a Welcome Home kit, with sheets and towels and pots and pans and detergents and linens. It’s all about making sure they have whatever they need to remain happy, healthy, and stable in their new home.”
To help fund those efforts, PATH is hosting its second annual “A Toast to Home” benefit event on June 3 at Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez. All are invited to enjoy an evening of local wine, dinner, music, and a live auction in the vineyard in support of PATH’s work to end homelessness in Santa Barbara. All proceeds from the festival go toward supportive services for Santa Barbara community members, increasing the organization’s capacity. General Admission tickets are $150 and include wine tasting, music, and dinner. VIP tickets start at $300 and include a special VIP reception an hour in advance as well as transportation to and from the site. Additional VIP grape stomping tickets – so you can channel your inner Lucille Ball – are also available.
“It’s a beautiful outdoor evening where our supporters get to enjoy great food, wine, and music, and also hear stories of the folks that we’re helping move home,” Tell expressed. “It’s just a really impactful night.”
PATH provides a plethora of other ways to help financially – with ideas ranging from $1,000 to furnish a home to $25 for a hygiene kit – and volunteering opportunities. Donors of dollars and time can rest assured their efforts are efficiently paying off as PATH has evidence that its formula works, Tell said. The proof is in the pudding provided by the pandemic.
“The more these programs are funded, the more results we see,” Tell said. “COVID was a perfect example: The emergency funding that came from the federal government allowed us to scale up all the work that we were already doing, and we saw even greater results.”
So, yes, homelessness is solvable. It just takes will.
Associate Director of Philanthropy & Community Affairs: John “JB” Bowlin
Our mission is to end homelessness for individuals, families, and communities. PATH envisions a world where every person has a home. Our values include creative collaborations, strategic leadership, empowerment for all, and passionate commitment.
Begin to Build a Relationship
We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.
PATH relies on the generosity of food donations and volunteer kitchen support to make three nourishing meals each day for residents. Being well nourished and cared for can be the first step on a person’s journey to healing and home.
Help PATH Do What It Does Best
Responding to Santa Barbara’s homeless crisis requires a robust fundraising operation. For 2022 alone, the overall goal is to raise $700,000.
A portion of this comes from PATH’s annual event in June, A Toast to Home, in partnership with Sunstone Winery. PATH’s annual holiday campaign, which launched in November, also aims to raise much-needed funding.
Individual donations will help PATH strengthen its services like its food rescue program and invest in improving its interim housing facility in Santa Barbara, which provides shelter and case management for up to 100 people. PATH recently completed the first phase of a three-part renovation to the facility. A second phase will overhaul the bathrooms to ensure the site becomes, as CEO Jennifer Hark Dietz puts it, “a trauma-informed space.”
“By donating, you are part of the solution to ending the crisis of our time,” Dietz says. “By giving, you are helping someone make it home.”